Tesla is in a pinch. It’s speculated to be producing a lot of automobiles. Mannequin three sedans, particularly. No less than 5,000 every week, and, ideally, earning money whereas doing it. However almost a 12 months after beginning manufacturing of the automobile, it has but to fulfill that objective, which CEO Elon Musk initially mentioned Tesla would hit earlier than the top of 2017. Now, the second quarter of 2018 is winding down and buyers are asking questions: The necessity to crank out extra automobiles has gotten much more dire.
So up to now month, Tesla did what it has at all times achieved, whether or not in a pinch or not—it acquired versatile. To enhance the 2 Mannequin three meeting traces already working inside his at-capacity manufacturing unit in Fremont, California, Musk arrange a 3rd line. In an enormous white tent. Within the manufacturing unit car parking zone.
“Wanted one other normal meeting line to achieve 5k/week Mannequin three manufacturing. A brand new constructing was unattainable, so we constructed a large tent in 2 weeks,” he Tweeted final weekend. “Additionally they poured the concrete & constructed the entire meeting line utilizing scrap we had in warehouses. And it’s means higher than the opposite GA [general assembly] line that value tons of of hundreds of thousands!”
Musk didn’t say what number of automobiles are being constructed within the tent, how that work differs from the meeting contained in the manufacturing unit, or what makes this setup any higher. However an inspection of the constructing permits Tesla filed with the Metropolis of Fremont yields a greater image of what’s happening in there.
First off, “large” is a good descriptor. Practically 1,000 toes lengthy, 150 toes large, and 53 toes tall, the tent covers 137,250 sq. toes. That’s sufficient to suit two and a half soccer fields, 122 Mannequin three sedans, or, an meeting line. Possibly even two, says Abhay Vadhavkar, who spent the primary few a long time of his profession in manufacturing at Ford and GM, and is now the director of producing, engineering, and know-how on the Heart for Automotive Analysis. The tent sits on the northeastern little bit of the Fremont property, by the paint store. It has entry to 4 bogs and about 30 hearth extinguishers. It’s the third such construction Tesla ordered from San Francisco-based Sprung Buildings, and its official identify is Sprung three.
Although the large tent is classed below California’s constructing code as a “restore storage,” Tesla says it’s most positively an meeting line, the place the foremost items of the automobiles come collectively. The primary components of the method, the place the components are stamped and the core of the automobile comes collectively, nonetheless occur contained in the manufacturing unit. As soon as the components have been to the paint store, they arrive right here for last meeting.
As a substitute of the floor-mounted, arm-like robots working in most vegetation, the tent is full of gantries. Consider these like a sequence of gates, by which the car-carrying conveyor belt runs. They’re not robots, however carry assists—units that make it straightforward for human staff to maneuver large hunks of metallic. They’re largely used for “cross automobile” installations, placing collectively issues that run the width of the car, since that’s work extra simply achieved from above than from the facet.
Contained in the tent, that sequence of gantries installs varied bits: The IP gantry places within the instrument panels. The glazing gantry does the windshields and rear glass. You possibly can guess what the “door on gantry” and “seat gantry” do. One thing referred to as the “marriage gantry” joins the underbody of the automobile (the place you’ll discover the battery, suspension, and motors) to the highest bit. The “wheel jib crane” presumably places on the wheels. On the finish of the road, the automobile rolls down a ramp, again to floor stage.
Tesla will be the solely automaker that will think about throwing collectively such a setup in so little time (a Metropolis official says Tesla notified it of the venture in late Might, filed its permits on June 11, and was up and working a few week after that). However bonus meeting traces are a longtime, if unusual, means for automobile makers to do certainly one of two issues: make fixes to automobiles which have gone by the common meeting course of, or construct automobiles that include particular options, that are onerous to combine into an present line.
It’s true that Tesla has had high quality management points, however a spokesperson says Elon didn’t pitch the tent to repair up automobiles. So the second use case makes extra sense, on condition that no less than one automobile that rolled off the brand new line was the primary Mannequin three with a twin motor setup. The second motor allows all-wheel drive, drops the automobile’s Zero-60 mph time to four.5 seconds, and bumps its value up $5,000. It complicates an meeting line, nonetheless, to have some automobiles get two motors, and others get one, which is why Tesla didn’t let clients order that possibility till a month in the past. Nearly when it will have began work on the tent. A Tesla rep says the road may construct automobiles with the only motor setup.
“I believe it’s sort of intelligent and ingenious that they’ve give you a construction they’ll put up very in a short time,” says Vadhavkar. And if that is the transfer that lastly places Tesla throughout that near-mythical 5,000-car-per-week mark, perhaps Musk ought to think about organising Sprung four—and utilizing it for a whopping large occasion.